My Dad and I, never really got along. When he went into surgery yesterday (June 18th, 2015), I sat in the hospital waiting room thinking about our past.
I thought about all the times we've yelled at each other in our kitchen (much like the scene above). Cigarette smoke from our mouths swayed left and right in the air, our words came alive with tar, nicotine, and death. I'd leave through our sliding door and hop over the deck and walk in a random direction.
I'd walk until I couldn't, until I had to stop to catch my breath after chain-smoking half a pack of Camels. When I would finally return home, we'd enter our respective rooms silent and stoic. We'd pretend we didn't know each other.
But as I sat in the waiting room, I felt like my lungs were being crushed. It's like a vacuum was hooked up to my chest, sucking all the air out of my body. I barely kept it together. I'm surprised that I didn't grind my teeth into dust.
I couldn't help but think of all the things that could go wrong and the way life would change after the surgery. But suddenly, a different thought rushed into my head like a train colliding into a wall.
I thought about being a father myself. I wondered what that would entail. Would I yell and scream smoke into my son's face? Would hug him or less than my own father? And I wondered if they would wait for me, the same way I was waiting for my dad. If they would be smacking their knuckles against the side-table in staccato spurts, if their heartbeat hit syncopated notes, or if they would pine for a cigarette the same way I was.
When I finally got to see him, I stood there silent and smiling next to his bed. He looked exhausted and swollen. He opened his eyes slowly, looked at me, laughed, and extended his arm out for a fist bump. I, of course, reciprocated the bump and smiled back at him before he dropped his head back onto his pillow.
The nurse sitting next to him told him to rest. She started explaining things to me about the procedure he just went through but all I heard was that my father was a "lucky man". But I felt like the lucky one, standing next to my father after imagining the worst possible outcome.
While I was watching the nurse's lips move but only hearing white noise, I noticed my father start to move with my peripheral vision. I snapped my neck in his direction as his eyes opened. He pulled some energy out of some secret reserve to lean forward and say,
"Do you know who this is? That's my son. He's a writer."
He slumped back into his bed and I nearly collapsed. I never knew he thought of me that way. And I never though of myself as writer. Sure, I scribble in my journal every now and then, and yeah, I spend most days typing words on the internet.
But I've never gotten paid for it. I never wrote a poem, a short story, or a novel worth publishing or sharing with anyone who wasn't a close friend. But he called me a writer. Me. Someone he was hardly proud of, someone usually introduced as an "Film Student" with a sarcastic smirk on his face, someone he wouldn't acknowledge unless he was directly asked.
I started tearing up and before we left to his room in the ICU, he laughed at me "for being too sensitive".
On the one day I wanted to be there for my father, he found a way to be there for me. Even in a drowsy, tired, exhausted, tubed-up, post-operation, awkward, and weakened state, he still managed to be the father I grew up looking to for confidence.
He was still the superhero I grew up loving.
As I was falling asleep in the chair next to his hospital bed, I saw our reflection in the television across the room. There he was, eyes closed and peacefully dreaming. A proud father with a writer for a son.